Random News of the Day: Punt it away

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Random News of the Day: Punt it away

Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010
12:32 PM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

The lead up to football season kind of reminds me of those chocolate calendars that circulate around the holidays. Anybody ever see those things? As a kid, I remember that I would open up the December 1 tab, and it would always have a ridiculous eyedrop-sized piece of chocolate. And it was usually stale. But hey, it was still chocolate. Day by day, the chocolates would get bigger. The Super Bowl of that chocolate calendar would be opened on December 24th. It was usually a bulky, warped, half dollar-sized chocolate Santa Claus, which looked more like David Crosby than Kris Kringle. It was still stale, but given the fanfare around the holiday it tasted pretty good.

Football training camp would be tantamount to, say, the first week of December of that calendar. We get a little taste of what lies ahead in the preseason, regular season, playoffs and all of the sweetness that makes up the Super Bowl. And even though the chocolate still tastes stale at times, we still eat it up like were at a Vegas buffet. Certain parts of the NFL have become stale, too. I dont want to rock the boat too much, because a bad day with football is usually much better than a good day without it. But there are a few items in the NFL that are facing 4th and long. Its time to drop back and punt a few of these annoyances away:

Just Get Rid Of Two Preseason Games Already: As we know, each team gets four preseason gamesusually two on the road and two at home (or one at a neutral site). NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already gone on the record in favor of the 18-game schedule, saying by taking one of the home preseason games and converting it into a regular season, youre improving the quality of what youre doing. Thats value. Some critics oppose, saying that an 18-game schedule could open the door to more player injuries and a diminished product later in the year. Pssh. Come on. With all of the new rules, like no horse-collar tackles and other rules that protect the quarterback, I dont buy the injury argument. Players are treated like glass dolls today. Come on, this is football. An 18-game schedule would bring more fan interest, increased ratings, and thus, more moneysomething that the NFL likes to make out with all the time. Get it done.Do What College Football Does About Overtime: We all know that football revolves around big TV ratings, big dollars and big hype. Why not take a page out of college footballs scrapbook and put their overtime procedures in place for the NFL? Each team gets a possession at the 25 yard line. You keep going until one team scores more on their possession than the other. Imagine the hysteria on a Bears-Packers game that is in the 4th OT with the score tied at 55. Heck, you would even draw in the figure skating viewers from other networks. Plus, it eliminates the clammy tie games that gunk up the playoff scenarios towards the end of the season. Stop Giving Raiders-Chiefs Games To Gus Johnson: Im not exactly sure why CBS puts Gus Johnson, one of the most exciting voices in sports, on the fourth-tiered (or lower) game of the week. Seeing Gus Johnson broadcast a game between a couple of 3-10 teams is like listening to a Master Of Puppets-era Metallica play in a mall food court. Sure, its still Metallica, but everything else around it just reeks of bad cheddar. Forget network seniority. Give this man the microphone in a game that means something. Wait, now that I think about it, Gus can make a Raiders-Chiefs game sound like the Super Bowl hopped up on Jolt Cola. Might have to rethink that one a little.Give Coaches A Pulse: The NFL is great, but its getting way too Wal-Mart-like: too much sterility, not enough personality. End zone celebrations are penalized, taunting is penalized and cookie-cutter, cyborg-like personalities are welcomed. And damage control is a core class in the NFL school of higher learning. The majority of NFL head coaches today are far too sensitive in their appearance and demeanor, especially in press conferences. Everything is squeaky clean and by the book. Just once, I would like to see a coach go on a postgame tirade and start throwing chairs like its a Maury Povich show. Then, the camera can follow the coach away from the podium for a during the break reaction. Fun! Best of all, promise the coach that he doesnt have to produce a mundane, forced apology the next day. Wouldnt that be a nice change of pace?The Pro Bowl: Footballs version of an all-star game is like Thanksgiving at your Aunt Sylvias. The sly ones that arent there turned in their get-out-of-jail-free cards weeks in advance. And the ones that are there are mailing it in more than the U.S. Postal Service. We all go through the motions in fake-liking holiday parties. The athletes in the Pro Bowl are no different. But can you blame them? This game is played by junior high football rules (no blitzing, etc). And putting the contest a week before the Super Bowl isnt going to help draw much more interestfrom players and fans alike. Heres a crazy idea: put the Pro Bowl on the same day of the Super Bowl, with the winning Pro Bowl team securing the coin-toss win for their representative team in the Super Bowl. Think about it, your Super Bowl pregame show loses the sappy 11-minute feature stories and gets legitimate interest. Only issue would be that if the site happened to be an outdoor facility, and it were to rain, the field would get ripped to shreds for the real game hours later. Orjust get rid of the Pro Bowl entirely.Look, the NFL is still 98 fun to me. But Piniella-isms aside, a few changes can make the league even sweeter.

It might even taste as good as that chocolate at the end of December. Especially if the Bears win a few games here and there.

Or something like that.

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

The daily litany of injuries and practice limitations through training camp and to this point of preseason have been stories. But they typically do not take on real significance until about this time of the football year, when teams swing onto final approach for their first regular-season game.

Against that backdrop, the Bears’ injury forecast was trending the right direction on Monday when No. 1 tight end Zach Miller and No. 1 nickel receiver Eddie Royal, both out for extended periods going through the team’s concussion protocol, were practicing without the don’t-hit-me red practice jerseys they were in as recently as last week.

Right guard Kyle Long, down with a shoulder injury since the New England game, was not in practice pads Monday but trotted over to a nearby goalpost at one point during practice, got into his stance and delivered a couple of linemen “punches” to the padding.

All three are vital components of a struggling offense in desperate need of impact players at any position.

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Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, held out of the Kansas City game on Saturday with hamstring soreness, was in uniform as well. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had knee surgery two weeks ago, was out running laps around the practice field, although he remains a longshot to be active for the Sept. 11 opener in Houston.

The situation was less encouraging for linebacker Pernell McPhee, who continues to do only controlled running and cutting along the sidelines as he works back from knee surgery in January. Chances of his return for the start of the regular season appear next to nil.

“We’ve got some avenues that we’re going to have to decide here as we cut down [the roster] to the 53 and some time from now, so I don’t like making those decisions now,” said coach John Fox. “But we’ll continue to evaluate him. There are options. He did start [training camp] on PUP [physically unable to perform]. We have a lot of options and we’ll do what’s best for us and him.”

The team has kept details of McPhee’s procedure and injury in-house. But teammate Willie Young, whose 2014 season ended with an Achilles injury of his own, offered a perspective that hinted at how serious McPhee’s injury may have been.

“It’s a credit to him, because to bounce back from any what used to be career-ending injuries is a challenge,” Young said, adding, “but he’s on course, I would say.”

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

With the No. 1 units in all three phases generally done for the 2016 preseason, one of the few stats that coaches and teams focus on can be analyzed for a Bears team that doesn’t have a lot of numerical results worth noting.

Through three preseason losses the Bears curiously have a plus-1 turnover ratio, taking the ball away from opponents. Through three games last year the Bears stood at plus-6 after a 2-1 point of a preseason in which coach John Fox sought to change a losing culture with an aggressive preseason approach.

Why this matters in a preseason of failures is this: Of the 15 teams with negative turnover totals, only one had a winning record. Not that a positive preseason means regular-season success, as the Bears demonstrated last year.

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But while the Bears offense has done precious little with the football when it’s had it, at least it is not giving it to opponents. Brian Hoyer has thrown the only two interceptions in 96 throws by Bears quarterbacks, a rate of 2.1 percent.

The defense has been without starting cornerback Kyle Fuller and No. 1 nickel corner Bryce Callahan for the past two games, and top corner Tracy Porter for game one and part of game three, the latter because of a concussion.

Still, members of the defense, which has produced two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through three games, have noticed a difference this year from last year’s first in a 3-4 base defense.

“Faster, that’s the main thing,” said defensive tackle Will Sutton. “A year under my belt in the system, you’re not thinking as much because you should know the plays. I can play a lot faster because I know how the blocks are being made against this type of defense, for instance.”

[RELATED: Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?]

The results have not yet been reflected in points, yardage or wins. But within the defense, players believe that team speed has been increased along with reaction speed, breaks on the ball and other elements that go into producing takeaways.

“Absolutely,” said linebacker Willie Young. “We’ve got a couple more guys who are more familiar with the scheme this year, including myself and [linebacker Lamarr] Houston, who obviously got off to a slow start last year.

“But we do have a lot more guys in position who are more familiar with the defensive scheme. So it allows you to fill a bit faster, a little more confidence.”

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Bears coach John Fox declared in the wake of Saturday’s 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that what transpired hadn’t been all bad. And that’s true; good wins don’t usually look as good in the film room afterwards, and bad losses don’t automatically show up all dark, either.

And so it is after preseason game No. 3 that the Bears in fact did have some good along with some bad in what was the worst performance of the preseason, if only because so much of it involved the No. 1 units, and they’re supposed to be better than that.

Since so much seemed to be (and actually was) bad on Saturday night, the contrarian approach is invoked here: Let’s start with the good.

Good: The Bears faced Kansas City (which also was missing a handful of key starters) without Bryce Callahan, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Zach Miller and Eddie Royal. Tracy Porter left with a concussion. They expect to have some if not all of those starters and sub-starters back by Week 1.

Bad: Miller, Porter, Royal and McPhee have varying degrees of injury histories, McPhee the least of the group but had never been put in the position of holding up as a full-time starter before last season. The chances of the Bears having all their key players for full seasons are slim.

Good: Jay Cutler has thrown 31 passes this preseason. None of them have been intercepted. In what proved to be a foreshadowing of a ball-security breakthrough for the historically turnover-prone quarterback, Cutler threw zero interceptions in 33 attempts last preseason. In the regular season Cutler had two games of 31 attempts and another of 33 with zero interceptions, plus pick-free games of 24, 27 and 45 attempts.

Preseason and training camp stats mean nothing; preseason and camp performances often do.

[RELATED: Bears defense can't pick up all the pieces from a broken offense]

Bad: Kevin White has shown less than nothing through preseason, catching a total of three passes and dropping an equal number in what is his de facto rookie season. He has run imprecise routes and looked a seventh-round draft pick, not a seventh-overall one. Despite his apparent explosiveness, no Bear is averaging less than White’s 4 yards per reception.

Good: Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith have had next-step preseasons, a matter of some potential significance given the health concerns with Eddie Royal and production concerns with White. No Bear has caught more than Bellamy’s 10 passes, and no Bear with more than two catches has averaged more than Meredith’s 16 yards per catch.

Bad: The Bears need a road win at Cleveland next Thursday to avoid the fifth winless preseason in franchise history.

Good: Of the previous four no-win warmup slates, the Bears finished 9-5 in 1962 and 11-5 and in the NFC Championship in 2010. The 1998 season, Dave Wannstedt’s last, wound up 4-12 but 1978 at least was 7-9.

Five of the last six times the Bears lost the “all-important third preseason game,” the Bears finished 8-8 or better.

Bad: (put in the Kansas City game tape)